hen it comes to racing games, I've always been a tad biased. Simply put, I'd rather chuck turtle shells around a track than spend hours in the pits tweaking gear ratios. I wait for the newest kart racer just as impatiently as a motor head waits for Gran Turismo 5. As Mario Kart makes its long awaited debut on the Wii, I couldn't help but wonder if it would be all I'd hoped for.
Baby Peach: The scourge of
Mario Kart.There's no questioning that this iteration of Mario Kart was designed from the ground up to appeal to the casual set — by including the Wii Wheel with every copy, Nintendo beckons the elderly to remember the joy that was driving. That said, the hardcore have far from been forgotten. Mario Kart Wii offers three additional control options — Wiimote and nunchuck, classic controller or an original GameCube controller. Playing the game using any method other than the Wii Wheel, one quickly realizes: this Mario Kart's controls can cater to hardcore competitors and grandma alike.
Overall, this franchise's transition to the Wii has been a graceful one. Widescreen presentation improves both the single and multiplayer experiences, and the graphics have definitely been kicked up a notch since Double Dash. Most of our favorite characters return, although they're joined by a few obnoxious newcomers — whoever's idea it was to make Baby Peach a core character needs to have their head examined.
It still sucks sixteen years later.Mario Kart Wii's courses are divided into eight separate cups of four tracks each. Complementing the new courses are some favorites (and not-so-favorites) from Karts past. The selection of classic tracks seems a bit haphazard — it's nice to see a mix from throughout the franchise's history, but many of these were best left forgotten. Still, most of the new tracks are outstanding. The Wario-themed mineshaft level and Toad's workshop are particular standouts, offering players ample opportunities to try out Mario Kart Wii's new mechanics.
Though Double Dash's co-drivers and character-specific power-ups are gone, this newest Kart brings its own unique additions to the franchise. Motorcycles have now been given license to compete on the Mushroom Kingdom's raceways — slightly faster than traditional karts, these vehicles are also a tad harder to control and don't take abuse particularly well. Tricks are another addition — a variety of aerial maneuvers can be performed, granting players a short boost in speed. Vehicles have mysteriously regained their ability to jump, but this particular addition seems only half-realized. While players will need to jump in order to initiate a power slide, one cannot use the feature to avoid obstacles or attacks — strange, since jumping could be used defensively in previous Kart games.
Of all the changes in Mario Kart Wii, few have as much impact (or are as welcome) as the addition of online multiplayer. Unlike the debacle that is Smash Bros online portal, Wii matchmaking tends to function dependably and game play is refreshingly free of lag. Although players will still need to enter friend codes if they want to race against buddies, one can easily import friend's from the Wii's master contact list. While voice chat isn't an option, this probably does a lot to keep matches with strangers the fun-loving romps they should be. Despite the hurdles Nintendo's encountered in implementing their online strategy, Mario Kart Wii finally indicates a move in the right direction.
Mario Kart Wii may not be a revolutionary leap for the franchise, but it's still a solid arcade racer and one of the Wii's best titles overall. I applaud Nintendo's inclusion of multiple control schemes — while hardcore matches dictate one of the gamepad options, casual gaming with friends is a blast when everyone's behind a Wii Wheel. Perhaps this isn't the game we'd hoped for, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun.